“We have to consciously build the elements of a world based on a culture of peace and disarmament. This is a task for everyone… requiring meaningful participation of people at all levels.”
In 1951, amidst rising global tensions and the developing Korean war, renowned medical geneticist Lionel Penrose joined six other eminent medical professionals in writing a letter to the Lancet, in which they expressed concern at the growing arms race, and called on doctors to use their expertise and social authority to work for disarmament and the prevention of armed conflict.
The resulting Medical Association for the Prevention of War (MAPW), and later too the Medical Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (MCANW), demonstrated the value of medical and public health expertise and the voice of health professionals in challenging dangerous foreign policy and misguided conceptions of security.
When MAPW and MCANW merged in 1992, this medical and public health opposition to war, violence and militarisation continued in the name of Medact, and incorporated the structural violence of unjust social and economic relations, as well as harm being done to the environment.
With our first Health Through Peace conference, in 2015, Medact set out to rejuvenate and revitalise this medical movement for peace. To effect real, positive change – in the face of escalating violent conflicts, threatened rights to healthcare access, and creeping militarisation across society – we saw the need to build a broader-based movement including all health workers, as well as academics, students and professionals in other areas whose work relates to health.
Now, more than ever, there is a need to for a collective, progressive public health voice.
Our work to grow and harness the potential of the UK health community to be powerful and active agents for positive social change takes many forms – for example, producing publications challenging the narrative on Trident renewal, providing training on refugee access to healthcare, and developing relationships between a broad spectrum of partners working in the fields of peace and health with events like the Health Through Peace conferences in 2015 and 2017.
But we can only do this with the financial support of individuals, contributing through membership subscriptions and donations to appeals.